Sri Lanka mourns 'Uncle Percy' - cricket's one-man cheer squad
October 31, 2023 01:26 PM
Sri Lanka's cricket stars and newspapers Tuesday mourned the death of a beloved "super fan" who had become a one-man cheer leader and a permanent presence at international games.
Percy Abeysekara, 87, died at a hospital outside the capital Colombo on Monday following a brief illness, according to his family.
Former Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene described Abeysekara as the "true 12th man for many generations of Sri Lankan cricketers".
"He was there throughout my entire career, cheering us on, waving his flag and always, win or lose, making us laugh," Jayawardena said. "We will all miss you dearly 'Uncle Percy'."
Another ex-skipper, Kumar Sangakkara, said Abeysekara was as much a part of the Sri Lanka cricket set-up as the players.
"From my debut till my last game Uncle Percy was a constant. His contribution to the game in Sri Lanka stands equal to any of the players that have worn the shirt," said Sangakkara.
- 'Cricket crazy' -
Sanath Jayasuriya, a member of Sri Lanka's 1996 World Cup winning squad, said: "It is with great sadness that I heard our beloved Uncle Percy has met his maker.
"You were the first super fan and for all of us you will always be special. RIP," Jayasuriya wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
Speaking after Sri Lanka's loss to Afghanistan in the World Cup on Monday, spin bowler Maheesh Theekshana said: "He was the main guy who was there when I was a kid. I saw him waving the flag, so as a team we are disappointed to hear that news."
The Daily FT newspaper said: "Percy gave his life and soul to the sport and was a legend on his own right."
Abeysekara was a constant presence at Sri Lanka matches since their Test debut against England in 1982.
"I am Percy, cricket crazy, but I have no mercy for those cricketers, spectators and administrators who are lazy," the FT recalled him saying.
He escorted England batsman Chris Tavare on to the pitch at the P. Sara Oval in the capital Colombo while holding a Sri Lankan flag.
His grandsons are named Garfield and Sachinka, after West Indian legend Garry Sobers and Indian batting great Sachin Tendulkar.
As a boy, Abeysekara saw Don Bradman play at the Colombo Oval in 1948, and nearly half a century later watched Sri Lanka defeat Australia in Lahore to win the 50-over World Cup, one of his lifetime cricketing highlights.
Former New Zealand captain Martin Crowe once handed him his man-of-the-match award and he was embraced by Virat Kohli during India's tour to Sri Lanka in 2015.